Smoking and Drinking Among U.S. Teenagers Hit New Lows
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times
WASHINGTON — Smoking and drinking among teenagers fell to new lows in 2015, new federal data (pdf) show, as young Americans continued to shift away from the habits of their parents.
Just 9.6 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, reported using alcohol in 2015, down from 17.6 percent in 2002, according to the data. Far fewer American adolescents smoke every day: about 20 percent in 2015, down from 32 percent in 2002.
The numbers came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency that tracks addiction and mental health issues in the United States. The annual survey is nationally representative, and questions about 67,000 Americans — youths and adults.
The trends were encouraging, and long-running, experts said, and distinguished young Americans from their parents’ generation, which had much higher rates of smoking and drinking. Kana Enomoto, principal deputy administrator at the agency, said the new numbers showed that rigorous public health efforts to reduce smoking and drinking among teens were paying off.
Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States, with illnesses linked to it taking more than 480,000 lives a year.
The survey also tracked prescription drug use and abuse, as well as the use of illegal drugs like heroin. Enomoto said another bright spot was that heroin use went down slightly in 2015 from 2014, though the change was not statistically significant. If the dip continues next year it could be a reason for optimism. Heroin deaths have been increasing rapidly across the country, but a decline in use data could be an early indicator that the trend might be reversing.
Prescription drug use — and abuse — is still high in the United States. The survey found that about 119 million Americans age 12 and over used prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in the past year, or about 44 percent of that population. Of those, the vast majority — about 98 million — used pain relievers.
In all, about 19 million people age 12 and over, or about 7 percent of that population, misused prescription drugs in the past year, including about 12.5 million people who misused pain relievers.
The agency used the survey to highlight the severe lack of substance abuse treatment in the United States. In 2015, an estimated 22 million people ages 12 and over needed such treatment, it said, but only 2.3 million actually got treatment in a facility equipped to provide it.
The agency said in a statement that President Barack Obama requested $1.1 billion in new funding to expand access to treatment, but that so far Congress had not provided it.
“There’s no other condition for which we would accept the fact that less than 10 percent of people are treated,” Enomoto said.
To Learn More:
Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) (pdf)
Study Finds Most Teens Vape Non-Nicotine Fruit Flavors, But CDC Skeptical (by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press)
E-Cigarette Smoking Among U.S. Teens Triples While Tobacco Use Plunges (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Some E-Cigarettes Contain 10 Times the Carcinogens as Regular Cigarettes (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)
The Real “Gateway” Drug…Alcohol (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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